Category Archives: waterfall hikes

Columbia River Gorge Tour #2


The creek below Wahkeena Falls

Initially, Denise and I headed for Latourell Falls.  The sky was foggy, the temperature cool, so I was not overly excited, but I wanted to stretch my legs and take some photos with my new camera.   Once we got on the scenic highway at Corbett, plans evolved.  We stopped at first great viewpoint,  known as the Portland Women’s Forum Viewpoint.  Not a bad seat in the joint.  I’d never been to the far end to the parking lot before, with slightly better views of the river and a classic look at Crown Point.  From there, we drove to the nearby Vista House atop Crown Point, then dropped into the trees on the winding road to the first big falls of the Gorge.

For a few reasons, we didn’t set out on a real hike at Latourell Falls, which I’ve previously documented on this site.  Instead, we strode up the first steep pitch to a nice viewpoint of the falls, then turned back.  I was thinking Shepperd’s Dell would be our next spot, but I forgot all about Bridal Veil Falls State Park!  Silly me.  It isn’t dramatic from the road, but this is a hidden gem with two very different trails.  Since Denise had not seen the river overlook trail, we skipped the waterfall trail and ambled about the meandering flat trail.  There are views of the mighty Columbia in both directions, and great head-on looks at the Washington side of the Gorge in the Cape Horn area.

Shepherd’s Dell is not much of a spot to hike, but it has a cool falls, which is made more mysterious by upper reaches I’d never before noticed.   The watercourse almost corkscrews. Cascades are visible through the trees along the highway which are invisible from the trail itself.   This is a great little spot for a rest.


Wahkeena Falls

Like its big brother Multnomah Falls, Wahkeena Falls is a popular spot, and with good reason.  The falls is not one clean plunge, but a couple of horsetails and a cascade below to boot.  The base of the main falls is easily accessible by paved trail.


Fern gully

Knowing this, we cruised up there.  It only takes a few minutes.   I was impressed by the flow and the breeze which that created.  I didn’t dally long by the falls proper, but continued past.  We hiked up about 11 switchbacks to Lemmon Viewpoint, which took perhaps 20 minutes.  I didn’t remember how tough the trail was, but it was easy, and the views were great.  It was a nice capper to another great tour of the Columbia River Gorge.


Lemmon Viewpoint and Washington

Note:  In double checking spellings of a couple waterfalls, I stumbled on a cool site for waterfall lovers, Northwest Waterfall Survey.  I knew a number of the names, like Ecola and Mist, but was not aware of Dalton, Little Necktie, and a few others.   Just when I needed new ideas for local exploration!  Happy hikes, everyone.


East to Beacon Rock




Off the Beaten Path Waterfall Stash

Above Mccord1

On the hike up, I enjoy geology on parade


I just wanted to get out of the city on a hot afternoon. Without meaning to, however, I found a series of tiny cascades in the Columbia River Gorge.  The primary trail I hiked ends in a nice spot, but ever inquisitive, I wanted to see what was around the corner.  I continued up the bedrock of the stream.  There were a couple of herd paths around logs and tiny cliffs, but it was almost as easy to clamber over rocks and logs, or simply hike in the very shallow water.  Every turn offered a new gorgeous scene, with water, rock, greenery, and sky all vying for my attention.

Many of the spots seemed more dramatic due to the volcanic rock over which the water flowed, and on which I trod.  Eventually, I sat on a mossy boulder at one point and simply took it all in, walking down only after I’d enjoyed the quiet canyon for almost an hour. It may seem strange to not mention the name of the trail, but I’d like to keep this a hidden gem.  What about you?  Do you have special places in the wild you would prefer to keep secret?

Mist and Mud at Abiqua Falls

AB8My week of vacation was coming to a close.  My visiting mother had left for the east coast, and I had to get back to the grind on Monday. One last hike. My target was a short hike to a waterfall southeast of the metro area.   Abiqua Falls is near Silver Falls State Park, but more remote.  Given the spotty weather and the below average access road, I was surprised to see as many people as I did.  That seems to be a theme for me.  I should probably stop being surprised. Recreating in the outdoors is more popular than ever, and in the Pacific Northwest, hiking to waterfalls is a great way to do that.

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The trail is actually on private land, so don’t abuse the access privilege. Almost immediately, the path crosses over what looks like part of a motocross track. There is a nice viewpoint off to the right, but don’t get distracted. The route stays left.  At times it is steep and muddy.  People have attached ropes to trees as handlines in multiple spots, which speaks to the popularity of the spot as well as the nature of the trail.  I found that trekking poles handy.  In a quarter mile or so, the trail emerges on the rocky shore of a creek. The falls are out of sight, but the canyon is so gorgous, so lush and green, I wasn’t focused on that yet.  I meandered upstream and turned a corner to find the falls in a rocky amphitheatre, like a jewel set in the forest.  Truly spectacular.

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Abiqua Falls is a good sized drop, and the pool below is large.  Mossy cliffs curve away on either sides, making for a unique sight.  I took my time, as others seemed to do, to absorb all those negative ions. Mist on the lens spoiled a number of my photos, but it was hard not to get some great shots of this verdant world.  I loved the rusty hue of some of the exposed rock and the clarity of the water below. Like a great summit, this was a spot I didn’t want to leave.


Gorge’s Greatest Hits: The Oregon Side

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It was a long week at work and I was exhausted, so I was slow moving yesterday morning.  In the afternoon, however, D. and I headed out for a Gorge exploration in my new vehicle.  We ended up hitting on a Gorge tick list of sorts, starting with the short hike to Bridalveil Falls, and ending in Hood River for a pint on a patio.  We had our son’s new dog, which kept things interesting but fun.  There were lots of clouds on the west end of the gorge, and we walked in the rain a bit at Bridalveil Falls, but we saw sunshine as we neared Hood River.  At Starvation Creek Falls and Mitchell Point it seemed especially bright.  It was a good afternoon and evening, reminding me how much I have to be thankful for.  I am a lucky man, indeed.


Herman Creek Pinnacles


A volcanic spaceship emerging from below ground?


I have walked dozens of pieces of the Pacific Crest Trail, but it seems funny that I missed a nearby section until yesterday.  It would have been one of the last legs which Cheryl Strayed hiked on her now famous PCT adventure.  I started at the Herman Creek trailhead, where I have been a couple times (the starting point for an Indian Point hike), and once I veered off onto the bridge trail, I realized I had walked this route in reverse twenty years ago.  I had gone on a quick backpacking trip over Green Point Mountain and across to Benson Plateau.  I had completed a twenty five mile loop by descending steeply from the plateau to this point.  The creek crossing is lovely.  Not a soul in sight.  Serenity now.  It would not have been difficult to stay there for much longer, listening to the babbling brook.

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The trail climbs mostly gradually, but really meanders through the changing forest towards the PCT.  The trail junction there is punctuated by a fantastic splintered stump.  The walking was still casual, and still I had seen nobody since the initial junction on the Herman Creek Trail.  It was midweek, but the weather was absolutely perfect, so I was surprised at the solitude, but longtime readers will know I’m not complaining.  Heading north on the PCT, the trail soon crosses a rockslide.  Cliffs loom high above the trail.  The sun is barely hitting the trail due to the massive walls above.

After a second, wider rockslide, the trail ducks back into the trees, turns a corner, and then I could hear the distant whispers of a stream.  The noise soon increased.  I  looked up at the stream crossing.  The waterfall is partially hidden by some maples, so I scrambled uphill for an improved view.  Pacific Crest Falls is a lovely two step falls which few people probably see, and if you are headed north, it could be easy to miss, but it’s worth the hike.


Pacific Crest Falls


Making the trip even better, a couple hundred yards down the trail, there is a series of odd rocky piles known as the Herman Creek Pinnacles.   Their fractured structure is fascinating, and I found decent views after scrambling up a rocky bump to the west, taking in the Columbia River, Washington foothills, even the white wall of a distant Mount Adams.

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This was a fascinating area to explore, from the water features to the incredibly lush flora to the rocks. The hike is probably less than five miles round trip, so it’s an easy half day venture, and one well worth the drive.  It’s also easy to connect with other short waterfall walks or explorations of Cascade Locks and Hood River.  Enjoy.

Gallivanting in the Columbia Gorge

DSCN4012As I have attempted to demonstrate in previous posts, the Columbia River Gorge is a pretty awesome place to play in the outdoors.  Today I took a tour of the Washington side with my wife and our faithful pup.  We began at the lower end of the Cape Horn area, where we walked through fern and moss draped trees to eyeball a beautiful cascade right below the rock and mortar protected outlook.  Good start.

After meandering past further road views from the Cape Horn area, we stopped at the St. Cloud recreational site, a pleasant surprise set in an old orchard on the bank of the Columbia River.   We walked through the orchard and down to the water for some close up views of the famous river.  Such views!

As we left, Jackie trotted by a great old log that seemed to me to have a leonine face on its end.   Soon, we drove by the famous Beacon Rock but didn’t dally long, then paused briefly at an historic marker pullout which referred to the Lewis and Clark expedition coming through the area.  A landslide 500 years ago came down from the area near Table Mountain and dumped debris in the river here. The spot also offered a unique view of Cascade Locks, where Cheryl Strayed ended her PCT hike (shameless attempt for search hits), and I was disappointed to learn that Char Burger is no more.


Through the trees and across the Columbia at a narrow spot to Cascade Locks

Stevenson was next on the agenda.  This is a cute small town on its way to being a real destination.  It has good restaurants, a brewpub, some cute shops, and lots of waterfront.   Retirement spot, anyone?   Following Denise’s good instincts, we headed for the waterfront, and wandered by a restaurant and walked down a trail below a lodge.  Nice place to visit.  If only we had some spare cash for real estate investments…


When we left Stevenson I briefly contemplated a hike up Wind Mountain, but thought better of it.  Too chilly.   Go east, (not so) young man!  Coyote Wall was calling me.  So we headed to the area popular with mountain bikers and hikers alike.  The start may have been the best part in more ways than one.   The old road was easy walking, and within five minutes saw two bald eagles relaxing on a snag.  It was the best view I’ve ever had of an eagle.

Once we ventured off the road onto a rocky muddy trail, the landscape changed a lot.  The hills undulate, and there are cool rock formations.  I was slightly surprised that the area was quite green, but it is January.  The temperature plunged as cloud cover came in, and we decided to turn back, since we still had a long drive home.   It was a great day of walking and sightseeing with the fam.




Misty Falls Mountain Scramble

A geologic epoch layer cake

A geologic epoch layer cake

The Columbia Gorge seems to have enough gorgeous waterfalls to satisfy any aquaphile.  I keep finding new ones, and this week was no exception as I visited two new falls for me, including one not too many folks approach: Mist Falls.  It’s not far from the tourist destination of Multnomah Falls, and it’s one of the highest falls in Oregon, yet there is no official trail climbing there.   The trailhead is little more than a short pullout just west of Wahkeena Falls.  A minute up the trail, where it still feels like a trail, one comes to the brink of a creek. Across the creek is a stone chimney, the last remnant of the aged Multnomah Lodge.

From there, what passes for a trail is really more of what I would call a talus thrash.  The slope is steep and the footing is anything but solid.  It would have been a good place for trekking poles, but knowing it was relatively short, I wasn’t worried.  IN fact, in less than ten minutes, I came around a moss encrusted rocky shoulder and got my first glimpse of the falls.  There has been very little precipitation in Western Oregon for a coupe months, so I was hardly surprised to see the falls looking rather thin. The water drops in two stages, the first a long dramatic and misty airborne plunge from a cliff, the second a lower angled cascade in the center of a broad rocky bowl.

I scrabbled up a steep shoulder on the left side of the falls where I was able to look back and see a bit of the Gorge but not as much as I’d hoped.  The depth of the falls was clearly visible here, as were some of the geologic layers, columnar basalt wedged between more chaotic forms of erstwhile lava. The bowl itself was dramatic and looked ripe for exploration with the right equipment.  A dark inset to the right of the falls was particularly intriguing to me, but the rock was steep enough that I didn’t want to venture up there solo without more preparation.  If it’s a cave with Neolithic paintings or pottery fragments, their discovery will have to wait for another day.

Cave trek, anyone?

Cave trek, anyone?

The hike up to Mist Falls was short but challenging, and the little amphitheater was well worth exploring.  This is good adventurous trek to appease adrenaline junkies bored by casual looks at roadside falls.  While not for inexperienced hikers, mountain goats would surely love this hike.

A Quick Adventure in Oneonta Gorge

The Columbia Gorge highway used to go through this tunnel until the late 1940s.

The Columbia Gorge highway used to go through this tunnel beside the entrance to Oneonta Gorge until the late 1940s.

Oneonta Gorge is, well, gorgeous.  I’d never done the full hike, which is like the Columbia River Gorge’s entry to canyoneering.  Hikers have to clamber over a massive log jam, then walk right in the creek to get to the destination of the waterfall.  Denise and I had been there before a few years ago, but had never ventured too far, as the season was wrong to get wet.  Today, with temps in the nineties, I was primed to try it.  It’s been hot for a while in Northwest Oregon, and a lot of people seemed to have the same idea.  I arrived at the trailhead by 10 a.m. and barely got a parking space.

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As my dear readers may know, I like my solitude, but was not worried.  I figured once people realized they were going to have to scramble over a log jam and set soaked upstream, many would turn around.  Boy, was I wrong!  Oh well.  Beyond the log jam, I was really in the bowels of the chasm.  1The walls were only 25 feet apart at a few points.    There was no solitude on this hike, but plenty of adventure and beauty.  Soon enough, I was getting quite wet, sloshing along up to the middle of my shins.  Then it got interesting.  I tried to skirt a deep pool by clambering on rocks, but to no avail. I had to get soaked up to my belly. The water was chilly at first, but not too bad.

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After traversing the narrow, deep pool, the canyon opens up a bit, then effectively dead ends in cliffs split by a good sized waterfall.  People wandered around taking selfies and group portraits.  A few waded in the deep pool below the falls.  I gawked at the canyon walls as much as anything.  What a lovely place. I could have stayed there a long time, but the crowd seemed to keep increasing, so I turned back, reveling in the beauty of Oneonta.  There’s a good reason it’s popular.

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Great Falls of the Potomac

Here is a simple plug for a spot to hike and picnic if you are near the District of Columbia.  The Potomac River splits Virginia and Maryland, and a great falls crashes along for hundreds of yards.  When I visited there with my family recently, I also saw kayakers playing in the froth, and climbers scaling the taller riverside crags.  Do not expect much solitude, but visit expecting a unique spot close to the nation’s capitol.

Great Falls

Returning to Eagle Creek

After working 18 days straight thanks to pressures associated with the upcoming  holiday, I finally got a day off today.  I helped my broken-footed wife get set for the day in her arts shop, then took my faithful canine pal, Jackie Chan, to the Columbia Gorge for a stroll in the forest.  It was chilly and cloudy, so I decided the famed Eagle Creek trail wouldn’t be too overcrowded.  Normally I avoid popular trails, but there’s a reason this trail is so well known in in the area.  It’s easy, and it’s beautiful.  The round trip to High Bridge is a casual afternoon at 6.5 miles.  There were plenty of people on the trail, but it never felt crowded.  I hadn’t been here in a couple decades, and I was pleasantly surprised to find new spectacular features unfolding the entire way. By the time Jackie and I returned to the trailhead, I knew I would not wait two decades for another hike up Eagle Creek.

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